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Spaceism

11 March 2013

A TV show like Star Trek will get around to covering pretty much every hot-button topic before long — war, government corruption, imperialism, communism, religion, you name it. Star Trek made several heavy-handed attempts to tackle racism early on, but to me, it took them 35 years to really tackle and understand the issue in a realistic way.

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Right from the get-go, Enterprise showed humans as working with the Vulcans, but not being at all happy about it. They were distrustful. Suspicious. Sure that the Vulcans were keeping them down, pursuing an agenda that kept humans in a subservient role. The Vulcans, for their part, saw humans as backwards, childish, stupid, and genetically inferior.

Sound familiar? Put pointy white sheets on the Vulcans rather than pointy ears, because their message sounds rather similar to the thought processes of some Grand Wizards in 1960.

That, to me, was one of the great things about Enterprise. It never explicitly called out the racial tension between the humans and the Vulcans. It never got heavy-handed or preachy — there were no second-season-James-T.-Kirk monologues about how all people were created equal, and they’d damn well better start acting like it, Mister. But there was an undertone there — the racism message was just below the surface, commenting on the issue without throwing it in your face, and without wrapping it up in one or two convenient episodes.

I think Enterprise got a bad rap. When I went back and watched it last year, it worked its way into my top five favorite sci-fi series ever, despite the awful series finale.

I’m going to put the question out there to you, folks — as Science Fiction uses fantastical settings to comment on real-world issues, what series, book, or movie do you think was the best in its treatment of racism? Which made the best social statement overall?

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